Global food prices slightly down in December — FAO

Global food commodity prices fell slightly in December after reaching a 10-year high, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has said.

The fall was led by vegetable oil and sugar, according to details highlighted in the Food Price Index report released on Thursday.

The index tracks the international prices of the most commonly traded food commodities.

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 133.7 points in December 2021, down 0.9 per cent from November, but still up 23.1 per cent from December 2020.

“Except for dairy, the values of all sub-indices encompassed by the food price index registered monthly declines, with international prices of vegetable oils and sugar falling significantly month-on-month.

“For 2021 as a whole, the FAO Food Price Index averaged 125.7 points, as much as 28.1 per cent above the previous year with all sub-indices averaging sharply higher than in the previous year,” it said.

The report said the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 178.5 points in December, shedding 3.3 per cent from recent record highs.

“The decline was driven by weakening palm and sunflower oil prices, while soy and rapeseed oil values remained virtually unchanged month on month.

It said the international palm oil prices fell in December, primarily reflecting subdued global import demand amid concerns over the impact of rising COVID-19 cases.

“Meanwhile, international sunflower oil quotations were also weaker, reflecting demand rationing.

“By contrast, world soy and rapeseed oil prices maintained their strength, largely underpinned by, respectively, firm import demand primarily from India and protracted global supply tightness.

“For 2021 as a whole, the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 164.8 points, up as much as 65.8 per cent from 2020 and marking an all-time annual high,” the report said.

According to the report, the FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 116.4 points in December, down 3.1 per cent from November and a five-month low.

“The December decline reflected concerns over the impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant on global demand for sugar following the resumption of containment measures in many regions.

“The weakening of the Brazilian Real against the US dollar and lower ethanol prices also contributed to lowering world sugar prices in December.

“For the year as a whole, the FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 109.3 points, up 37. per cent from 2020 and the highest since 2016.

“Throughout the year concerns over the reduced output in Brazil amidst stronger global demand for sugar underpinned the increase in prices,” it said.

In the report, the FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 140.5 points in December, down 0.6 per cent from November.

“Wheat export prices fell in December, amid improved supplies following harvests in the southern hemisphere and slowing demand. However, maize prices were firmer, underpinned by strong demand and concerns over persistent dryness in Brazil.

“While sorghum prices also rose, partly influenced by maize markets, barley quotations eased slightly.

It said international rice prices also softened in December, as demand relapsed, and currencies weakened against the US dollar in various major suppliers.

“For 2021 as a whole, the FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 131.2 points, up 27.2 per cent from 2020 and the highest annual average registered since 2012.

“In 2021, maize and wheat prices were 44.1 and 31.3 per cent higher than their respective 2020 averages, mostly on strong demand and tighter supplies, especially among major wheat exporters.

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“Rice was the sole major cereal to register a decline in prices in 2021, with quotations falling on average 4.0 per cent below 2020 levels.

“The weakness reflected ample exportable availability of rice, which heightened competition among suppliers and led them to seek to counter the impact of high freight costs and container shortages on demand by lowering prices,” it said.

The report said the FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 128.2 points in December, up 1.8 per cent from November and 17.4 per cent above its December 2020 value.

“In December, international quotations for butter and milk powders continued to increase, underpinned by high global import demand, coupled with tight export supplies, resulting from lower milk production in Western Europe and Oceania.

“Despite the low milk output, cheese production in Western Europe increased as producers preferred cheese over alternative dairy products, causing a marginal decline in cheese prices.

“In 2021, the FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 119.0 points, up 16.9 per cent from 2020, reflecting sustained import demand throughout the year, especially from Asia, and tight exportable supplies from the leading producing regions,” the report said.

READ ALSO: Global food prices at highest in over 10 years 

It said the FAO Meat Price Index averaged 111.3 points in December, marginally changed from November and 17.4 per cent above its year-earlier value.

“In December, poultry prices fell, primarily weighed by increased global exportable supplies, while ovine prices declined on increased supplies from Oceania.

“Meanwhile, pig meat prices fell for the sixth consecutive month, though slightly, as the continued downward pressure stemming from the decline in Chinese imports was compensated by increased pre-Christmas sales in major producing countries.

In 2021, the FAO Meat Price Index averaged 107.6 points, up 12.7 per cent from 2020.

“Across the different categories, ovine meat registered the sharpest increase in prices, followed by bovine and poultry meats, while pig meat prices fell marginally,” it said.

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